As stunters we spend most our time in the shadows behind industrial warehouses, but today we spoke with a different kind of stunt-man who spends his days on the silver screen. Brian Smyj is a Hollywood stuntman who both coordinates and does stunt work himself. He recently did the stunt coordinating for Ryan Gosling’s new film “The Place Beyond the Pines.”
In the film Ryan Gosling actually plays a motorcycle stunt man, so the stunt work was plentiful, here’s Brian talking about the film and his career in general.
StuntBums: How did you get your start in stunts? Specifically what is your motorcycle background?
Brian Smyj: My career in stunts grew out of my love for movies. The world of film making was like a bunch of gypsies or a traveling show that would go to a town, set up their tents to do a show and then off to the next town. My passion for the outdoors and background in rock climbing, parachuting, scuba, horseback and martial arts drove me to find a way to get paid for what I loved to do.
When I was ten my entrepreneurial spirit and love of bikes inspired me to use my paper route money and convince my Mother to kick in the difference to buy a Honda Mini Trail 50. The Mini Trail 50 lead to a Honda 175 and then to Harley. Today, I enjoy riding dirt bikes with my cousin upstate. The Honda CFR250X is one of my favorites. Another Harley or Fatboy is definitely in my future.
StuntBums: Being a coordinator in Hollywood, what skills are hard to find in riders?
Brian Smyj: The hardest skill to find in riders is the understanding of camera work. That is changing because of things like the go pro and all of the little films guys are making themselves. I worked with Ric Miller and Louie Franco, former racing champions, who did camera work for the film. In The Place Beyond the Pines Louie drove the Camera chase bike with a 50lb camera strapped to the forks of the bike chasing Ric Miller (doubling for Ryan Gosling) through the woods. Ric was a world motocross champion and Louie won his class in Baja last year.
StuntBums: What is your advice to a rider looking to make their start in the Hollywood stunt industry?
Brian Smyj: The best advice I can give to a rider starting out in the Hollywood stunt industry is to learn the most you can about the business and stunts so you can be an asset to the stunt coordinator. You have to remember some of the best bike guys in the world are in the movie industry and it's a great place to transition to once your racing career is done.
StuntBums: Tell us about the most challenging stunt you faced on the set of “The Place Beyond the Pines”?
Brian Smyj: The most challenging stunt I faced in The Place Beyond the Pines was picking the right guys to train Ryan and become his teacher. Derek, the Director, wanted Ryan to do all of his own riding. Ryan did 70% of his own riding and could have done more but wasn't available. He trained for 2 months with Ric Miller and drove through an intersection against the red light with 47 stunt drivers crossing in front of him, through and around him in the intersection. The action still gives me the shakes thinking about what could have happened if it didn't go right. Ryan did the work and was a great student and Ric was a great teacher - all which helped to make it successful.
Picture: Focus Features